Rebels in the Sudanese provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile clashed with military units last week, marking a renewal of fighting just north of the border between Sudan and the new state of South Sudan. The rebel groups are allies of South Sudan and want independence from Khartoum. For their part, South Sudan’s government has denied supporting the rebels. While the population of the region is overwhelmingly in favor of independence, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the government of Sudan agreed in January 2005, to not include South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the new state of South Sudan. Instead, “popular consultations” were to be held in the two areas, a process with with no clear path to independence.

The renewed fighting comes at the same time that the United Nations is accusing the Sudanese government in Khartoum of launching a deadly bombing campaign against the population of South Kordofan. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claimed last week to have evidence that the Sudanese military had committed war crimes in the South Kordofan region, including 13 air strikes by Sudanese military cargo planes:

Antonov aircraft dropped bombs over farmlands and villages on a near-daily basis while researchers were on the ground from August 14-21.

Researchers were present when three bombs were dropped from an Antonov aircraft on August 19, and photographed the incident.

In all the attacks investigated by researchers, there were seemingly no legitimate military targets near to where the bombs struck, according to victims and witnesses.

The type of munitions used – unguided munitions dropped from high altitude – and the indiscriminate manner in which they were delivered, violated international humanitarian law.

These event show that South Sudan’s new independence will, in all likelihood, not mark the end of conflict in Sudan’s south. Without further international pressure and diplomatic actions, civilians will continue to suffer in the region for the foreseeable future.

Photo credit: ENOUGH Project

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